February 29, 2008

Making science and movies in Spain

This week's Nature magazine has an editorial on science policy in Spain (A new Silver Age?). It ends with these words:
Spain's pockets of scientific excellence — reflected in its success in winning many of the first highly competitive European Research Council grants — show that the country is capable of entering a new Silver Age. If only its government will let it.
By "if only its government will let it" Nature means, in part, "if only government will fund it more generously."

Nature explains that during the early decades of the twentieth century Spain enjoyed a Silver Age of creativity both in the sciences and the arts. These were the years of Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Federico García Lorca and Santiago Ramón y Cajal.

But the case of Buñuel illustrates the contrast between the Silver Age and the current times. The Spanish Republican government banned from 1933 to 1936 the only movie Buñuel filmed in Spain - the classic surrealistic documentary
Las Hurdes (1932). In the twenty-first century the Spanish movie industry is mostly a state enterprise. The government provides the funding and forces movie theaters and television stations to program Spanish movies against viewers' wishes. Spanish movies have become, with very few exceptions, boring and repetitious.

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